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“Follow your passion” What if I don’t have a clue.

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By Tiffany Wong | Admissions Counselor

“Follow your passion” “Follow your gut”.  Sounds familiar?  I don’t know about you but I cannot help cringing whenever I hear people throwing these quotes in students’ faces.  They are making an important decision – which course to apply for, and telling them to follow their gut is not helping.   

I understand how ‘interest’ and ‘passion’ are crucial elements to getting intrinsic motivation in learning; but asking students to just ‘follow’ their passion is an over-simplified and perhaps, a romanticized notion.  Chances are, most of us do not have a clue what we are passionate about.  Is that you feeling a little puzzled (if not terribly overwhelmed), wondering “I don’t even know what I want/like”?”   

If you’re feeling lost and confused, indecisive and uncomfortable about which course to go for, first, take a deep breath and then exhale.  No, I’m not asking you to meditate your way through the course selection process (no harm trying if you still have time).  But I want you to know you are in good hands, so sit back, relax and read on.  I’d reveal the quick and dirty tips about the key considerations you would not want to overlook during this seemingly overwhelming process.  But first, I’d like to break it down to you why “Following your passion” might be a dangerous concept when it comes to course selection. 

 

What does passion mean to you? 

What does passion mean to you? Is it something that you have an intense desire to do and cannot live without? To me, passion entails something that I would have a strong desire and longing for which is way beyond interest, hobbies.   

I might be interested in painting, in hiking, but I honestly would not say (not at this stage) that I have already developed a keen desire to do these every day and night. I have also recently learnt to scuba dive.  Amazed by the underwater world, I just cannot wait to meet Mola Mola (the sunfish) some day (when we can finally get to travel).  But I would not say I have found my calling and I have no plans (at least, not in the near future) to turn it into a vocation, say to become a diving instructor.  

 

What if I have not identified a passion?  

Do what you love, love what you do – they say. “But I just haven’t got a clue.”  – during an admission counselling session, most students would start confessing once their parents had left the meeting room during a counselling session.  I’m glad they shared their honest concerns with me so that we could finally dig deep and think about what’s next.   

 

Our passions might change over time.

I am pretty sure you have done this homework as a kid. The future portrait – draw who you want to be. Or complete the sentence “I want to grow up and become…….”  I want to be a pilot. I want to be a chef. I want to be open an alpaca farm.   

Not all of us are clear about what we like and dislike at childhood.  Statistically speaking, only a few of us would have identified a strong desire in one particular area of interests and even fewer of us would turn that passion into a vocation.  If you have it all figured out, you would not be wondering and coming to me (or other education counselors/teachers) for advice in the first place.  Without exploring and experiencing much other than wandering in shopping malls, karaoke bars, and maybe the internet all these years, why would you all of a sudden, wake up, and figure what your ‘true calling’ might be? How are we supposed to know when you have been spending most of the time on revision and more revision for public exams (which have barely anything to do with the real world out there)? But does that mean we are doomed to misery and failure – that we are leading a life with no sense of achievement or purpose?   

Our wants and goals change over time. That is perfectly normal – we are still in search for this answer.  See it as a process, it might change, as you experience different stages.  Our childhood dreams or early passions, often, are not the best guide to our later careers. There are just way too many things about the future and about yourself that you don’t understand. 

Future you might not like what the younger you have decided for you.   

 

 

Here’s what might happen if you blindly follow your passion. 

Even if you do know what you enjoy doing, would that be a good idea to pick a course in college based on those interests?The truth is, not all passions or interests could be neatly translated into a vocation or a course available at university.

 I love pizza and I’m passionate about cheese & wine. Do I want to do a degree in pizza-ology (pizza-making) or maybe food-tech?  Not really. You might be interested in jogging after a long day of revision and have gradually turned this habit into your passion upon days, months, years of practice of marathon training.  But that does not necessarily mean that you would want to do a degree in sports.  You might have a passion for travelling – and you might be fixating your career or college options that involve frequent travelling.   

I am not saying you should disregard your interests totally. You should take that into account but do not ignore the not-so-bright aspects that come along with it.  Have you really thought it through?   

 

What should you consider aside from passion or interests?  

Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what you should carefully consider before deciding which course (of action) and uni course to take. 

Instead of narrowly pinpointing the course selection process into a match-making exercise comparing passion/interests to subject choices, I urge you to adopt a more holistic approach that could strike a balance among the following aspects:

  • Your interests – what sparks your curiosity 
  • Your ability and eligibility – what you are good at and whether you can meet the grade requirements for the course  
  • Your value – which would in turn, determine the so-called ‘career prospect’ or ‘value/revenue’ as determined by the market demand. What can you offer? What is your contribution?
  • What will you learn from the course? Can it equip you with the relevant skills, qualifications and network? 

 

Do your research so you can make an informed decision.

By that I don’t just mean aimlessly browsing course outline and university brochures. With the internet these days, you have access to plenty of resources available out there.   

  • Attend webinars, university open days, information sessions; 
  • Connect with university alumni or experienced mentors in the designated course/industry;
  • Look up vlogs and social media of current students taking the courses that you might be interested in 

Find out how you can get to where you want to be.  For instance, some jobs require certain qualification examinations and practical work experience.  Ensure you plan early on so that you can be prepared for what lies ahead. 

It is important that you know what your are signing up for to minimize that gap between expectation and reality. 

 

 

Develop your passion, don’t follow it.

Don’t follow your passion. Follow your curiosity and develop your passion as your embark this journey of exploration. 

It is more important to have grit, which is a combination of passion and perseverance toward a long-term goal than just an emotional enjoyment over an area of interest.

Instead of eyeing on the easy gain at the initial stage where curiosity and enjoyment are at peak, try focusing on the commitment and perseverance that have to be dedicated to achieving true excellence. 

Pick the course where you think you’d learn the most the things you want and need.  You would miss out a lot if you foreclose your passion too early on.

Stay curious and you will always be learning, whatever your passion is.  

UK counselor Tiffany

MS TIFFANY WONG

NACAC

Admissions Counselor

BA Law & Business, Warwick University (UK)

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Trinity College London

Marymount Secondary School (Hong Kong)

  • Over 8 years of experience in admissions counselling and test prep
  • 100% success rate in securing at least 1 university offer from top 3 choices (UK universities)
  • Formulated a unique strategy in creating competitive advantage for international applicants

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